Nick Boles – a radical Minister?


            In 2010 at the start of the Coalition Nick Boles published an interesting book on how to remodel government. Entitled “Which way’s up?” it brought together a lot of exciting ideas for changing government for the better.

             I agreed with many of them. I have always wanted wider ownership and more participation in the wealth of the country for all. I like devolving power from government to individuals, families, charities and private institutions. I am up for a major improvement in productivity and quality throughout the public sector. This is all common ground. Some of the ideas drew on things Conservatives  were doing in 1980s, some on the radical maifesto of Hannan and Carlswell, the “Plan”.

             At the core of much of it was a plea for a radical transformation of government, devolving power from central government and Whitehall to Town Hall. Mr Boles recommended the abolition of all District Councils, the introduction of elected Mayors, and the transfer of many powers to  County and Borough government. He recommended Councils having more powers to tax, so that half their revenues come from local taxes, to enable central taxes to be cut further as services are transferred. He wanted Councils to have more power to make more government decisions that affect everyone’s lives.

               I mention this today because Mr Boles is now in a position to do something about all this. He has settled in as  Planning Minister in the Department for local government. He is working with and for a radical Secretary of State, Eric Pickles. Mr Pickles has already swept aside much of our unloved English regional government structure. The question is, what will this pair now do to reduce the amount of government we have in total, and to transfer functions to local control where governemnt is needed?

                In Mr Boles own area of planning we were promised a system where once a local Council has an approved plan national Inspectors and Ministers will not second guess it on appeal. So far this has not been delivered. Appeal decisions still go against Councils with plans, undermining their ability to negotiate strong Section 106 agreements.  Time will tell whether Mr Boles can and will do it. I wish him well.

                 It will be interesting to see what if any monument for less central government he chooses, and how easy he finds it to push through what remains overall a very bureacratic and centralised structure. There are more gold stars  for finding things government no longer needs to do at all, but there are good marks to be won  for stronger and more accountable local government as well.

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  1. Mike Stallard
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    Our town (Wisbech, Cambs) is literally falling down. Honestly, in a major town centre street, just off the market place, there are plants growing out of buildings, several bricks missing and loose about 60 feet up and one building already demolished and propped up with girders. That’s High Street.

    Hill Street – again in the centre, has half its shops closed now. The Market is a jumble of cars because the parking arrangements have been under discussion for such a long time. There are, actually, more charity shops and cafes than real shops now too.

    Meanwhile we have a mayor and town council. We have a Parish Council, we have Fenland District Council at March which has helped us by providing a brand new Council Office for Educational Excellence and then closing down the court and the police station. It takes the police about half an hour to arrive – even when a police woman in being menaced by a man with a samurai sword (I got this from a serving police officer).

    We then have the County Council and Westminster which is taking an increased interest, of course. I did not even mention the regional council (???) or the EU.

    We are a very long way indeed from the Plan. We are, however, moving a lot nearer to Mr Carswell’s excellent latest book: The End of Politics.

    • Lord Blagger
      Posted December 28, 2012 at 9:15 am | Permalink

      It’s the government pension ponzi that’s going to push it into chaos.

      Next time you’re out and about in Wisbech, have another look around, this time at the people. Ask yourself, what’s going to happen when they don’t get their pension, there is no welfare, no housing benefit. What are they going to do? How are they going to react?

      After all, the government has spent their pension money, entirely.

      ONS estimate the debt at 4,700,000 million pounds. Do we have enough millionaires from whom John can tax 100% of their assets? Do we heck. End result is they won’t get that pension, or benefits.

      Now think of those claimants denied their ‘human rights’ to other people’s money.

      No amount of S106 extortion is going to make it work.

    • Bazman
      Posted December 28, 2012 at 9:17 am | Permalink

      More cuts are needed Mike. Especially in Wisbech. The less services, jobs and maintenance the more money there will be. Each town has to stand on its own merits.

    • Disaffected
      Posted December 28, 2012 at 11:29 am | Permalink

      Mr Pickles radical work- don’t make me laugh.

      Bins collected every fortnight, public pay to use refuse sites in addition to community charge, roads are a disgrace despite huge charges and Osborne taking two thirds of the cost each time I fill my car with fuel, multi-layered councils rather than unitary authorities (six to cover once county in some areas), the waste is so large I forgot Pickles was a minister in Government with a portfolio.

      Dennis Cooper might be able to help with this question: why is immigration counted separately for Scotland from England and Wales when the EU negotiates with the UK and all directives are with the UK not separate regions of it? Is it to make the immigration figures look better than what they are?? Scotland had a record amount of immigration and asylum seekers last year. Add this to the awful England and Wales figures and you can only conclude that Osborne cannot add up or he is useless with figures- and he is the chancellor! Stop immigration now we cannot afford it and there is not the infrastructure to support it. Those in government and its quangos who think the Uk needs more are in a world of their own.

      • zorro
        Posted December 28, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

        I am not aware that they are able to count immigration to Scotland separately from figures to the UK. There may be some information from the census on long term residence according to regions, but I would treat these figures with caution. Even if people are supposedly landing in Scotland, a lot gravitate southwards…..


      • Max Dunbar
        Posted December 28, 2012 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

        Also the dishonest “net” figures for immigration beloved of the ostrich-in-the-sand politicians of all the main parties. They refuse to give us the numbers that matter and the breakdown of these numbers because that would be “racist” and “divisive”. Discussion of Polish immigration is acceptable but don’t mention the C word.

    • Rebecca Hanson
      Posted December 28, 2012 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      “We are a very long way indeed from the Plan”

      Well it’s all been implemented in education. It’s just not working because it’s exceptionally distant from reality and was clearly designed for the pipe dreams of the young and ignorant instead.

      Is the end of politics excellent because it engages properly with the failing of its predecessor publications? Or is it excellent because it pretends everything is very simple and that everyone who says otherwise is an ignorant self-interested socialist ideologue and you like that Mike?

      • Mike Stallard
        Posted December 28, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

        Please read the book. ISBN 9781849544221. Cost £12.99. Amazon.

        • Rebecca Hanson
          Posted December 29, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

          Mike – does it show a mature understanding of the fundamental ignorance of ‘The Plan’?

    • backofanenvelope
      Posted December 28, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

      Well, perhaps Wisbech should just go with the flow. Convert the centre to residential uses, build some strip malls round the edges. As far as the police are concerned, Wisbech isn’t very big. Get the parish council to fund some watchmen.

      • Mike Stallard
        Posted December 28, 2012 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

        No – we have tried and the weight of bureaucracy makes it completely impossible. I even drew up a plan along these lines and presented it to a major player – no dice!

        • alan jutson
          Posted December 29, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Permalink


          Sounds a bit like Bracknell (went there today to a specific shop) and that was built in the 60’s but now its all dying on its feet, should Bentalls department store choose to move out or close, the shopping centre would be a disaster area.

          Plans for a £500 million redevelopment have been talked about for years but nothing yet started, although Waitrose have just opened on the edge of Town, so perhaps they know something is in the wind, and it will change soon.

  2. lifelogic
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    About half the things the government do are not needed at all, or actually just cause inconvenience to people rather than good. The rest are often done with absurd inefficiency according to top down rules and laws and with little attention to any real benefit to the recipients.

    Just look are the absurd complexity and duplication of all the countless taxes levied NI, income tax, Vat, parking taxes and all the rest. Look at the damaging subsidies for wind, PV, the inefficient, expensive, electric car subsidies, the Millennium dome, the over blown Olympics, the absurd gender equal insurance (just introduced by Cameron and which will clearly even cost many lives), much of building control, much of planning system, Bliar’s counter productive wars, HS2, many bike lane projects, coloured PC tarmac, the absurd energy plan, “environmental” road blocks and all the excessive anti-car traffic lights …….. one could go on for days.

  3. lifelogic
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    I suspect that once they get a ministerial appointment they become controlled by the civil servants, presented with countless things to do to deflect them – such as defending the indefensible in interview and speeches. Told they cannot do anything they want to anyway, due to EU and UK laws, gender equality considerations, disability acts, human rights, time constraints and the rest. It is I suspect the civil service controlling the minister and using them as a PR puppet person to take the flack and to spin reality – rather than the minister actually controlling or setting a direction for the department in the interest of the public.

    • Rob Mc
      Posted December 28, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      If a new minister is presented by civil servants with reasons why he can’t do the things he wants, he should recognise that change is unlikely happen without other steps taking place. Because government departments must be staffed to a sufficient level to implement change and change is not possible, those 30% or so of departmental staff should be made redundant. Perhaps at the point notice of intended large scale redundancies is given the civil servants will start to find ways to accommodate the ministers ideas.

    • Alan Wheatley
      Posted December 28, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      Of course, it could, in some cases, be that the minister does not know much about that for which he has responsibility, and appreciates the Civil Servants providing him with the props by which he can give the appearance of doing the job!

    • zorro
      Posted December 28, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

      It’s like taking candy from children…….A lot of ministers rely on special advisers.


    • stred
      Posted December 29, 2012 at 12:52 am | Permalink

      At a lesbians civil P a few years ago, I met a civil servant who told me his job was to write speeches for a Labour minister. As this minister had difficulty with pronounciation, I asked whether he had to avoid big words. The guest looked askance and did not reply. I suspect that the reason was that I obviously did not understand that he was writing the policy of civil servants and the minister’s job was only to communicate crap to th’ pleb’s, who also don’t understand big words.

  4. Greg Tingey
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    What does he & you do about local government corruption, though?

  5. alan jutson
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    My forecast

    Like many Ministers of the past, he will talk a lot, but do nothing to change anything much.

    Whilst your theory/idea about splitting the power to raise taxes from central government to local government has some merits John, the problem is central government simply do not give up their fair share, and overall taxes will increase.

    Proof of the above is road pricing, you have in the past been in favour of road charging for new roads 0nly, many of us here said that it would creep into all roads, so the tax take would go up.
    Only a few weeks ago we have had exactly that proposal, now modified old/existing roads were going to be up for road charging.

    The problem is governments cannot give up wanting to spend MORE and MORE of OUR MONEY on things they like, so they forever want to TAX MORE not LESS, meanwhile the tax system grows ever larger, and gets ever more complicated.

    106 agreements are simply blackmail for the granting of planning approvals, and should be scrapped, in many cases they do not even benefit the development or surrounding area in question.

    • lifelogic
      Posted December 28, 2012 at 8:58 am | Permalink

      Indeed there are countless back door taxes and licence fees, parking fines, filing fines, 106 planning “bribes” ………. on top of VAT, council tax, income tax, fuel duty, stamp duty, corporation tax, fuel duty ………….

    • sm
      Posted December 29, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

      Why should a true first time buyer fund S106 demands? versus a socially funded home renter or private renter? Its just adding to the ponzi property problem.

  6. The PrangWizard
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    I heard a short speech recently by Welsh Nationalist MP Jonathan Edwards in the House of Commons on Energy generation in Wales, making the case, of course, for more devolved powers.
    He spoke of ‘my country’, ‘the people of Wales’, ‘the British State’, ‘London’, making it clear he wanted to be viewed as detached from the British State. It struck me, as an English nationalist, would I ever hear an English MP, sitting for an English constituency, speak in the same way for his nation, England?
    For, there is no reason why he should not, the English are entitled to the same rights to national self-determination as the Welsh and Scots. They have a national Assembly, and a national parliament recognising their unities. The English have neither.
    So what about English MPs? We know the British are not the same as the English, because Britain is the State which resides above us all, and England is a nation like the others. How do they feel when a Welsh nationalist challenges the British Establishment? Should they not feel and demonstrate the same detachment from the British State?
    If they do not, are they not conceding that there is no difference between the British and the English which the other nations often claim, and that it is the English therefore who are their ‘oppressors’? By keeping silent they also deny the nation of England, a unity, and the people of England their rights to true identity and self-determination, do they not? And when they say, nevertheless, they do represent England because they are English and are from English constiuences, are they not being disingenuous? Talk of limited devolution within England granted by The British State which then remains untouched is just a fudge, a pretence, another form of Regionalisation and division.
    Which MP will be the first to make his position clear beyond doubt, to demand a parliament for England and speak against British rule over England?
    If the Scots and Welsh can do it, and be respected and rewarded for their beliefs, let an Englishman or Englishwoman do the same. Where is the difference, after all?

    • Martyn
      Posted December 28, 2012 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      The difference is that so far as our governments, past and present and the EU are concerned, England no longer exists and therefore has no relevance to the government of Britain other than, perhaps, as a cash-cow for tax take.

      I have long thought that the disestablishment of England was a deliberate act taken to ensure that never again could England be in a position of influence to persuade other countries to combine, either politically or militarily (e.g. Napoleon, Hitler) to combat an emerging European dictatorship – the historical aim always being attempting to maint a balance of power between the many different European nations in support of democracy.

      From that followed the regionalisation of what was England with uncontrolled immigration (with yet many tens of thousands yet to arrive) to undermine the natural conservatism (small c) of southern England in particular. Thus no one in Parliament or positions of influence is now willing to fight for English nationalism for fear of being ridiculed as ‘little Englanders or swivel-eyed bigots’. Happy New Year, people….

      • JoolsB
        Posted December 29, 2012 at 10:15 am | Permalink


        UKIP are the only main party to acknowledge the inequities that devolution has brought and are mooting the idea of an English Parliament if elected. Having said that, they have gone very quiet on the subject after the Welsh Branch of UKIP objected to an English Parliament although they have promised it will be in their manifesto. It would seem just like the Tories, despite their main support being in England, they don’t want to upset our Celtic cousins but unlike the Tories, at least they are willing to talk about how they can address the English Question whereas we can’t even get the Tories to say the word England let alone discuss the discriminatory manner in which it is treated post devolution. If anyone is going to address the English Question, we should put our money on Nigel Farage. The other three parties have proved they couldn’t give a toss about England except when they want their votes of course.

    • lifelogic
      Posted December 28, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

      The difference is the EU thinks England need breaking up into weaker regions on the divide and conquer principal and UK governments have gone along with this in the main.

      • uanime5
        Posted December 28, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

        You’ve forgotten that every EU county divides itself into smaller regions because they have federal systems.

    • JoolsB
      Posted December 28, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      “would I ever hear an English MP, sitting for an English constituency, speak in the same way for his nation, England?”

      Spot on Prang Wizard. It would be something just to hear an MP sitting for an English constituency even mention the word England let alone speak up for it. They are all complicit in their deliberate ploy to conflate Britain and England and hope we English are too stupid to notice that when the UK Government talks about £9,000 tuition fees, abolition of ema, prescription charges, care for the eldery, selling off our assets or the proposed toll roads that they are only talking about England, knowing full well in their deceit, that the UK Government, including it’s 119 Celtic MPs, have no mandate to speak on these matters outside of England.

      They would have us think we are all in this together but it is Lab/Lib/Con who are all in it together in their attempt to impose devolution within England rather than to it. If Labour get in in 2015 which looks likely, they will not stop until they have balkasided England, something they are already making noises about and the Conservatives as now, will no doubt stand by and do nothing. Amazing really when you think the Conservative Party have everything to gain by giving England equal status to the rest of the so called union.

      Reply I have spoken for England in Parliament, and asked the government the question who in government speaks for England.

      • zorro
        Posted December 28, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

        Reply to reply – …to which Mr Cameron replied?


        • lifelogic
          Posted December 29, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

          No one I hope – would perhaps be Cameron’s view.

      • forthurst
        Posted December 28, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

        ” I have spoken for England in Parliament, and asked the government the question who in government speaks for England.”

        80% of Conservative MPs are Friends of Israel; obviously for them, Israel’s right to exist is rather more important than England’s. How’s Boles getting on with his Hebrew lessons? etc etc

        • zorro
          Posted December 29, 2012 at 10:57 am | Permalink

          Perhaps a Tory MP could start a ‘Friends of England’ group. I am sure that the MP would be overwhelmed with applications……


      • JoolsB
        Posted December 29, 2012 at 10:21 am | Permalink

        Apologies John, you and Frank Field are probably the only two out of 650 and would you care to tell us what the reply was if indeed you got one? Presumably your reply was as rude and as arrogant as the reply Frank Field got from our PM when he asked the same question at PMQ’s and was slapped down by Cameron who told him that we English should not have our grievances nurtured.

    • Alan Wheatley
      Posted December 28, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

      There is nothing inherently more national about England than Britain; after all England is an amalgamation of that which went before it.

      Indeed, I would argue that Britain makes the most sense as a nation because it is an island.

    • Max Dunbar
      Posted December 28, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

      The problem is that two wrongs do not make a right. There should never have been Welsh or Scottish parliaments. This debate need never have taken place if the unity of the nation had been maintained. The cancer of separatism has pitted people against one another needlessly and caused resentment and envy to boil up. The people of Scotland, Wales and England are one people. We already have a parliament. How many more do we need?
      Thanks to the deliberate subversion of the State and the malign ambitions of the Labour Party combined with supine and complacent Tories we now find ourselves in a ludicrous position of unprofitable in-fighting. Nobody needs an English Parliament. Westminster must repatriate powers from the devolved assemblies and exercise authority robustly. No quarter must be given to those who wish to break up our country for selfish petty reasons.

      • alan jutson
        Posted December 28, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Permalink


        Whilst I agree with much of what you say, the cat is out of the bag now.

        Bribery or pleading will get it back in.

        Thus the only solution now is an English Parliament that SHOULD look after the interests of ENGLAND.

        Reserve one day a week for UK political discussions in the HOC.

        • alan jutson
          Posted December 29, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

          OOPs should read

          “Bribary and pleading will not get it back in”

        • Max Dunbar
          Posted December 29, 2012 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

          If you don’t mind coughing up more money to pay for a second-rate talking shop as we have up here in Scotland. Thats a mistake that many Scots made and have come to bitterly regret. Don’t do it. Only the parasites benefit.

      • uanime5
        Posted December 28, 2012 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

        Only the English consider the people of Scotland, Wales and England are one people. The Scottish and Welsh consider themselves different to the English and don’t appreciate being outvoted in an English dominated parliament.

        Trying to end devolution because it doesn’t benefit the English is more likely to fracture the UK than unite it.

        • David Price
          Posted December 29, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

          If you are of that opinion why do you take completely the opposite view when it concerns the EU?

          Don’t bother replying, I already know the answer.

        • Max Dunbar
          Posted December 29, 2012 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

          Speaking as a Scot we have not done too badly at Westminster in the last 100 years with a disproportionately high number of MPs and a substantial number of Prime Ministers, two of whom have dominated “the English” within the past 15 years or so. As far as “difference” goes the notion is entirely absurd; regional variations in accent only.

  7. Lord Blagger
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    S106 = Extortion.

    Pure and simple.

    Then we have Cameron on the radio this morning talking to Melissa Gates.

    1. We should be tested on how we keep our promises.

    Lets look at you them.

    We promise to pay the state pension from 60/65 – Broken.
    We promise to pay a pension linked to RPI – Broken
    We promise to pay a state pension. You’re planing to abolish it.

    2. We must be accountable.

    Where are the accounts for the state pension? There are none. Even you promised those John, but I guess its not the way it works. Keeping promises that is.

    After all, if people knew the extent of the extortion, they might be shitting bricks about their retirement. You’ve spent it.

  8. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    I wonder why you have chosen to put Nick Boles in this spotlight. I must confess that I am not impressed at all by him. Many of his utterings before becoming a minister appeared to me as though he was acting as a sounding board for Cameron. In July he appeared on Radio 5 live and made very misleading statements about pensions and pensioners’ benefits. When I wrote and challenged him on his inaccuracies, as with many politicians, his reply ignored the specific errors he had made. If you regard him as someone for the future I fear we have even more to be worried about.

  9. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    In theory decentralisation seems to make sense, however as a female in a male dominated community, one might view things differently. Instead of having one focus where corruption can be illuminated and even that is difficult , I envisage many councils where the ‘lads’ take control and the loudest bully who has brassed off all his neighbours taking the spoils into his own account ,then gets the local mafia -type network behind him to keep power.
    This goes on now and there is eventually a way we can appeal , but will we be able to if the peopole who have local power have twisted jurisdiction and ways of hiding the truth?

  10. JmS
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately I see no evidence that ‘local’ knows best. I could make a full-time career challenging new local traffic proposals and the 30-40% or so of existing arrangements that are illegal but which central government seems determined that the local government should be proposer, judge and jury over.

    Who does one vote for? The party labels mean nothing, particularly with the Lib Dems, where local policy is to oppose regardless with the results that, say, they are pro-wind in one area and anti-wind in another.

    No the answer is less government; no EU, prune central government and taking a chain-saw to local government.

  11. oldtimer
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    There s more mileage in the elimination of powers held by government (whether local or national) than in their transfer from one level to another. The first steps for the Pickles/Boles team is thus to eliminate as much as they can before trnsferring anything at all.

    A revealing illustration of political constipation is provided by Spiegel online`s analysis of the last EU summit under the title “EU Summit Reveals A Paralyzed Continent”. Apparently the leaders do not listen to the set speeches, preferring to spend time on their mobile phones and iPads (Mr Cameron reportedly plays computer games on his during the summit council meeting}. It is unclear to me, after reading this apparently well-informed account of the proceedings, quite why Mr Clegg thinks it is all such a wonderful idea.

  12. Rebecca Hanson
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    What happens in areas with woefully incapable councillors?

    • uanime5
      Posted December 28, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

      The same thing that happens now, the non-proportional voting system helps them remain in power while the local area declines. Also they’ll keep increasing taxes to increase their salaries.

    • Edward
      Posted December 28, 2012 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

      Well Rebecca I would hope you and I and many other like minded citizens would realise they are useless and vote them out.
      Or even stand for office in opposition to them.

    • Credible
      Posted December 28, 2012 at 11:32 pm | Permalink


  13. Leslie Singleton
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    One notes that a chap called Van Rompuy has just opined that the whole EU may collapse if we do what we think is right. Why cannot he and his understand that threatening people with what they want is laugh or cry stuff? Maybe he is a comedian. The fact that few in the UK are going to pay any attention to him – never mind respect – is half the problem. Bring it on.

  14. Chris Rickard
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Nick Boles is a liability to this Gov on planning & has no sensible proposals that will help solve the housing crisis. It’s such a shame Greg Clark was moved. He was very thoughtful when he rightly abolished the Regional Spatial Strategies. The problem with housing is the lack of balance between supply & demand. The supply shortage is driven by home builders able to hold on to landbanks without penalty to force prices up to a new bubble, lack of affordability, driven by high land costs & onerous S106 obligations, and lack of mortgage availability, particularly for first time buyers (funding for lending has given banks (more) cheap money which they haven’t passed on. The problem is not planning with landbanks at c 400k at the moment. Any Gov serious about solving housing rather than making a meaningless noise about it, should address these supply issues and free up cheap brownfield sites – not encourage a building free for all, which is the Boles way.

  15. Alan Wheatley
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    One of the difficulties that central government has to solve with respect to local government is that central government tends to take the blame at the ballot box for the failings of local government. Perhaps it also gets the credit when things go well locally. But the issue for the voter is much the same when central and local government candidates stand under the same party banner; to know who is responsible for what.

    Knowing has been made more difficult with the trend for local authorities to be seen as the means of implementing central policy through control over the money.

    Locally raised funding is also problematic, as has been highlighted on this site in previous discussions about transfer funds. Local government can make a bad job of it when they do have control of locally raised funds, such as using the business rate like the goose that lays the golden egg – until squeezed by untenable levels the goose stops laying.

    I am all in favour of more localism. It will take a genius to make it work properly. Is Nick Boles that man? He would do well to study the past so as not to introduce the big “new” idea containing the ingredients that led to failure the last time it was tried!

  16. Credible
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    A nice radical transformation would be stop cancer sufferers from being in fuel poverty and unable to heat their homes. The figures from Macmillan Cancer Support were appauling.
    While this is happening the energy companys are making large profits for themselves and paying dividends to shareholders who have done absolutely nothing and contributed absolutely nothing except for having the money to buy the shares in the first place. It’s a screwy society we live in.

  17. Muddyman
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    There is a major flaw in local planning – the advent of controlling public officials, in particular CEO’s, who override elected Councillors and operate their fiefdom – this is now negating any democratic semblance.

  18. Roy Grainger
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    The recent woefully low turnout for the election of police commissioners shows there is no enthusiasm at all for the transfer of powers to local control. The resulting actions by several elected commissioners in appointing their cronies as their deputies demonstrates the potential for corruption that is always there at the local level when second-rate busybodies who are not talented enough to rise to the top in national government are the only ones who stand for election.

  19. Bert Young
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Its all very well supporting a push towards more power at a Local Government level and so reducing the cost of Central Government and taxes , but , as one of your bloggers has indicated , the graft and possible corruption at this level is something of concern . There is also a vast difference in the talent base between Central and Local Government level employees , so , given the choice , I would much rather control rest under the supervision of Whitehall . Best of all would be a substantial overall reduction in the cost of all forms of Government supervision . Private competition and a discerning public is a combination that produces value and , inevitably , lower prices .

  20. Max Dunbar
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    Whilst I agree with much of what you say, it applies only to England?
    However, I dread to think what more powers to Glasgow City Council would mean if it applied in Scotland. The council (One Party State) here is notorious for alleged corruption and frequently appears in Private Eye’s “Rotten Boroughs”.
    The latest wheeze is the proposal to remove all the Victorian statues, including that of Sir Walter Scott, from George Square (city centre) and turn it into an “urban space” for the Commonwealth Games in 2014. Judging by the only proposal that I have seen so far it could also double as a parade ground if there are plans to invite the North Korean Army Physical Training Corps to take part in a march-past..

  21. Barbara
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    I’m not inpressed by all this so called local democracy, we can’t even have central democracy in this country. We all want to make up our own mind as to where we go in the future, via a referendum for the EU, which we are denied by government. We are choked daily with new laws and they keep coming, it will take up all Mr Pickles time just repealing them all, he won’t have time for all you suggest.
    As for more local democracy, when local Councillors get more power they tend to spend more wildly on schemes to suit their political aims, not less. We see services which locals depend upon, diminishing year on year, and it’s usually the less well off who suffer the most like the elderly. They have become the beggars within local communities for services, which are now virtually non-exsistant. No, its fine to keep saying we must spend less for more, but it just does not happen, for there’s always a section of soceity who takes the brunt of the cuts. We had the prospect of a massive mosque in Dudley, which 50,000 people signed up against, and the fight to not build it took overly several years, done so by a Conservative Council, nothing against the religion but its size did not fit into the historic town; of course the first proposals were laid down by a Labour Council. My point, if local means anything, the first petition should have been enough but it wasn’t, it took further petitions to refuse its building to take place. May be this new set up would work in such circumstances, somehow I have my doubts.

  22. Iain Gill
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    Sadly in the case of the NHS the government is devolving power to General Practioners, which sounds ok, but when you are stuck with one of the worst GPs in the country and it is impossible to move to another its rather a bind. Far better would be devolving power where it belongs to the PATIENTS.

    It also sadens me to know the truth of what you are told John. I have been invited to “troubleshoot” two of your governements flagship programmes that are clearly in trouble. Ability to execute big programmes of change as ever is far removed from ability to get elected in this partial supposed democracy.

    I note the leader of the opposition is saying in his new years message he is going to remember the forgotten people, the Conservatives should be fighting back with “yea the forgotten IT workers displaced from the workforce when your lot flooded the country with ICT visa holders and went on to give many of thme British passports” but then the current government is just as bad. It would be easy to demolish the labour party to long term marginal status but nobody seems to have the common sense to see the things that need to be said.

    As for local government biggest problem is education authorities. The lack of choice in the parents hands, the rubbish schools that continue through generation after generation, the decent schools decent folk cannot use without lying about their religious beliefs. For me if its a state funded infant school ANY child should be eligible to get in.

    And so on and so on

  23. Mark B
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    This is all very nice this, “power to the people” malarkey. But is it ?

    Before this, I would much rather have a discussion on having an English Parliament, with devo-max, along with their Welsh, Ulster and Scottish (assuming they are still with us) equivalents.

    A UK Federal Government, responsible for UK national and international matters’.

    Local governments’ can have a lot of power but their must be radical change. MP’s should be given more power and control over their constituencies and local governments’.

    The people need to be consulted on local budgets and, should be given the right to choose and veto items. That way they get the things they want, not what they are given.

  24. Pleb
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    Well it will soon be 2013, 2 years to another labour government.
    They will capitulate to the new Forth Richt and our country will vanish into the new regions of it. Europe lost without a shot fired.

  25. Jon
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    I seem to remember an idea about local referendums on where money/priorities should be spent or not.

  26. John
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    This is just another shambolic policy to break up England (they do not do it in other parts of the UK) and give us little leverage in the British government. The English should have our own Parliament and then we will decide what is best for our local areas. If the Scots should decide what is right for their country then the least the British can do is give Englishmen the same right.
    England, Britain’s last colony.

  27. uanime5
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    Any devolution of more power to local authorities should be accompanied by a fairer voting system to elect these councillors and a standard salary to prevent councillors raising their salaries by raising council tax. Without these two things expect the Conservatives to be blamed when something goes very wrong.

  28. stred
    Posted December 29, 2012 at 12:59 am | Permalink

    I dread to think what would happen if my local council, run by evangelist greens, were to be given more power. They are already wasting vast amounts on pointless empty discontinuous cycle lanes, traffic delay signals and PV panels on any new building. And now they want to end council tax discounts for single people and students. Truly bonkers! I hope Mr Pickles will say no to the tax hike.

  29. David John Wilson
    Posted December 29, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    It is wrong to call for district councils to be abandoned. For counties with large populations it is the county councils that should be abandoned in favour of a number of smaller district councils. What we do not need is district councils within county councils.

  30. Derek Emery
    Posted December 29, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    Unfortunately public faith in politics and politicians has been largely lost with only around 7% today aying they trust politicians. It was therefore very predictable that City Mayors would be seen as merely another set of politicians hanging round the public’s neck. The publci would rightly expect them to achieve nothing of value as par for the course. It was noticeable in the recent police elections that voters preferred independents over politicians.

    The B=brand name “politician” is largely devalued in the UK.

  31. i albion
    Posted December 29, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    Mr Redwood England must have a Parliament,the English have no voice no First Minister only you and Frank Field stand up for England, so what does that make the other 600 and odd MPs in the British Parliament?
    When has a MP of any colour stood up in Parliament and even said the word England?

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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